Tips from O’Kennedy Consulting on how to move your working day online and present effectively at a virtual meeting!
Embrace the opportunity
Online meetings can seem daunting to some. Fear of the unknown, technical difficulties or unfamiliar environments can mean that people often put off the opportunity to ‘meet up’ digitally opting for an email or old fashioned call instead! Given the current challenges due to Covid-19 and the required flexibility and ever-growing need to adapt to a new working environment, we would encourage organisations to embrace this changing world. Online meetings can actually present some benefits over in person meetings; saved time on commuting for one and more focused discussions in many cases. No longer do face-to-face meetings need to be a prerequisite for meaningful stakeholder, supporter or donor engagement – the show is going on…line!
Create a professional environment
If you’re participating in online meetings from home, it is important that you take your surroundings into account. Ensure that everything that is visible on camera is appropriate. Avoid any online or in-person interruptions; turn all computer notifications off and close any unnecessary tabs. If you live with other people, make sure they are aware that you are taking part in an online meeting in order to prevent interruptions and try (regardless of how cute they are!) to keep babies and pets at bay for formal meetings.
Given you are meeting people (whether they be staff members, board members, donors, volunteers or suppliers) from the comfort of your own home, you don’t have to worry about the commute or being there early to make a good impression. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan ahead. Make sure you give yourself enough time to wake up before an early morning meeting. Time or scheduling differences can be more common when organising meetings remotely, and often across different time zones, so aim to get on the schedule of the organisation or person you are meeting to avoid any bleary-eyed conversations. Ensure you have water and any notes you might need close to hand.
When scheduling an online meeting, the meeting organiser should make it clear which link is being used or number to call, who will be on the call or online meeting and what to do if there are any technical difficulties. Having back up conference call capabilities will ease everyone’s minds.
Remember it is still a professional meeting
Whilst online meetings can seem a little more relaxed, remember to dress appropriately for the organisation you are meeting with. While shaking their hands is not an option, good eye contact is always important; ensure you look straight into your camera as much as you can rather than down at the screen or at your notes. Format your screen to help you; if looking at the image of yourself distracts you, minimize the box. Speak clearly and audibly. Online technology is great, but it can be muffled at times. Make sure you have tested your microphone and video software before the meeting starts.
All parties should make an effort to respond both verbally and nonverbally to what each other is saying, otherwise a quiet screen can be quite intimidating.
Meeting organisers should remember to highlight a time frame for the call. Whilst the call may be happening within a ‘work from home’ situation, all parties may still have work or a daily schedule to return to.
Whilst online meetings offer ease of scheduling and the technology behind them is constantly improving, there is a possibility that technical issues will interrupt your meeting. Planning ahead and ensuring you are in the best location for a strong internet connection is important. Familiarise yourself with the software being used for the meeting. If the call is disconnected for a lengthy period of time, ensure you have a backup method of contact.
During technical issues, all parties should be patient and give extra time to this part of the meeting agenda. Remember there are fewer visual cues and often there can be lagging or a time delay, so forgive your meeting participants if they accidentally speak over you.